Hanoi offers visitors a diverse range of attractions. Depending on whether your interests are cultural and historic, or are satisfied by restaurants and shopping malls, there is guaranteed to be something to suit every taste.
Temple of Literature
Vietnam is a country that is steeped in religious heritage. Over the centuries it has been settled by a variety of different civilizations, from indigenous peoples, to colonial Europeans (the French), each of whom have left their mark on the landscape in terms of traditions and well-preserved architecture. If you travel about two kilometres west of Hoan Kiem Lake, you'll come across the Temple of Literature. This building is not just well-preserved, it is an rare example of traditional Vietnamese architecture that has stood the test of time. Dating back to 1070 when it was founded by Emperor Ly Thanh Tong, it is dedicated to Confucius, honouring Vietnam's finest scholars and literary heavyweights.
Ho Chi Minh Mausoleum
Falling on in the traditions of those great communist leaders who died before him - Lenin and Stalin - and then Mao afterwards, Ho Chi Minh's mausoleum is a vast marble edifice that forms a suitable memorial to someone who had such a big impact on Vietnam's historical development. Although the leader himself expressed the desire for a simple cremation, his death has been marked by this magnificent marble structure. It was constructed from materials that were gathered from all over his native land between 1973 and 1975.
Westlake, or Tay Ho, is the largest lake in Hanoi. Measuring almost 13 km in circumference, it is ringed by fairly upmarket suburbs, providing a pleasant backdrop to residential areas. The other shore of the lake, Thuy Khue, borders a line of popular seafood restaurants. Its eastern perimeter is marked by the Xuan Dieu strip, with numerous restaurants, boutiques, cafes and luxury hotels. There are also two temples overlooking its tranquil waters – the Tay Ho and Tran Quoc pagodas.
Fine Arts Museum
This institute is a particular jewel in the cultural crown of Hanoi. The Fine Arts Museum is housed in two buildings that were formerly the headquarters of the French Ministry of Information back in the colonial period. The museum is renowned for its art collections, which include superb examples of furniture, ceramics and textiles. There are also temporary exhibitions that showcase a range of artistic talent.
Ho Chi Minh's Stilt House
Located immediately behind his mausoleum is Ho Chi Minh's stilt house. This is the humble dwelling where he lived, on and off, between 1958 and 1969. This abode is based on a traditional rural dwelling, and it has been preserved just as the great Vietnamese leader left it in 1969. The house is set amongst carefully a cultivated garden and also includes a pond that is abundant with chubby carp.
Hoa Lo Prison
Vietnam is a prosperous and vibrant country that is doing its very best to shake off an often unsavoury history. This building is a classic example of something that can be looked upon within the context of the triumph of the country's present-day prosperity. The site of a former prison, it was ironically known as the ‘Hanoi Hilton' by the American POWs were stationed there during last century's American War. Although it was originally intended to house around 450 inmates when it was first built by the French in the 19th century, records indicate the truer figure was almost double that!